VEVES


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Veves & their Loa

In Voodoo practice (West African = Vodun, Haitian = Vodou), Veves are intricate symbols of the Loa (gods) which are used in rituals celebrating those gods.  They are similar to the sigils used in Ritual Magic.  Each Loa has his or her own complex Veve, which is drawn on the ground with powdered eggshell or some such similar substance prior to the start of a ritual.

The ability to draw a Veve correctly is considered to be a particular skill of the initiate, and is believed to be more powerful if it is drawn correctly.  The Veve depicted here is that of the love goddess Erzulie Freda.  Similar designs exist in other religions such as Santeria and Candomble.

Lithographs of Catholic Saints are also used to represent the Loa, the reason being that during slavery in Haiti the white French masters forbade the slaves from pursuing Vodou as a religion, so much so that anyone caught practicing any religion other than Catholicism was punished severely.  However, the slaves were still deeply attached to their African roots, so although they were forced to use images of Catholic Saints during Vodou ceremonies, deep in their hearts and minds they were really praying to their Loa.  Although more than 400 years have passed, the tradition is now so deeply enshrined in the religion that it is impossible to imagine Haitian Vodou without the representation of the Loa with images of Catholic Saints.

Some of the more well-known veves and their associated Loa are show below:

Agaou

Agassou

Agwé

Ayizan

Agaou is the Loa who rules over thunder, rain, lightning, wind, storm and earthquakes.  Very powerful and violent, Agaou is feared and respected by all.  The image of St Michael is used to represent Agaou.  His colour is red, but sometimes light blue.
Agassou is believed to be the product of a divine mating -- a leopard is said to have mated with a princess named Aligbonon of Tado.  He is also noted as a ruler and king of an African sect, that has come to be known as the leopard society.  His colour is white.
Agwé is a Loa who rules over the sea, fish, and aquatic plants, besides being the patron of fishermen and sailors.  He is pictured as a handsome mixed-race man with green eyes, often wearing a naval officer's uniform.  He goes by several titles, including ‘The Angel in the Mirror’ and ‘The Tadpole in the Pond’.  He is linked to the Catholic St Ulrich of Augsburg and very occasionally the archangel Raphael, both of whom are depicted holding fish.  His colours are white, blue and occasionally brown.
Ayizan is the Loa of the marketplace and commerce in Vodou, and especially in Haiti.  She is a racine, or root Loa, associated with Vodoun rites of initiation.  As the spiritual parents of the priesthood she and her husband, Loco, are two of the Loa involved in the kanzo rites in which the Priest/Priestess-to-be is given the asson (sacred rattle and tool of the priesthood), and are both powerful guardians of ‘reglemen’, or the correct and appropriate form of Vodoun service.  She is associated with the Catholic Saint Clare.


Baron Samedi

Bossou

Clermezine Clermeille

Damballah

Baron Samedi is a Loa of the deceased, amongst other incarnations such as Baron Cimetière and Baron La Croix.  He is usually depicted with a top hat, black tail coat, dark glasses, with cotton plugs in his nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian manner.  He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and for having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum.  He is reputed to be linked to Saint Martin de Porres.


The Loa Bossou is believed to be the spirit of the deceased Dahomean king Tegbésou.  He is a very powerful and aggressive Loa whose appearance is that of a man with three horns.  When he is in possession, he acts like a bull and often crashes into things.  He would sometimes eat grass, moo like a cow and drink rum or bull's blood.  His colour is Red and he is represented by the Catholic Saint's image of Jesus de la Buena Esperanza.
Clermezine Clermeille is the patroness of music and harmony in Haitian Vodou.  She is of Rada origin and is believed to live in a crystal and diamond palace in the depth of the ocean, where music is always playing.  In Haiti, the Loa Clermezine Clermeille is mostly served in the northern part of the country.  She is associated with the Catholic Saint Cécile.
Damballah, as the Sky Father and the primordial creator of all life, is one of the most important of all the Loa.  He rules the mind, intellect, and cosmic equilibrium.  White rum is sacred to him.  Damballah is linked to either Saint Patrick, Christ the Redeemer, Our Lady of Mercy, or Moses.
Erzulie Dantor

Erzulie Freda

Filomez

Gran-bwa

Erzulie Dantor is a dark-skinned, hardworking Loa with tough country ways and she is fiercely independent and vengeful, but despite her wild nature, she is seen as very maternal; Erzulie Dantor is the protector of children and women who have been abused or betrayed by a lover.  She is mistaken as a lesbian due to her tough and sometimes masculine ways.  Her Catholic saint associations are: Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mater Salvatoris, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our Lady of Prompt Succor, and she is also associated with the Hindu divinity Kali-Ma.


The agile and elegant goddess of love and of sex, beauty, jewellery, flowers, luxury, wealth, dance, femininity as well as discord, vengeance, jealousy; the loa of ideality in Haitian Voodoo is Erzulie Freda.  She is respected and wealthy, wears her hair long and is also very demanding.  She is usually identified with gay men, and is considered to be the mortal enemy of her sister Erzulie Dantor.  In Catholic symbolism, she is often identified as the Mater Dolorosa and strangely, the Virgin Mary.  Her colours are pink, white and light blue.
Filomez is considered to be a cheerful merchant girl who brings prosperity.  She is a very rare Loa, and rarely comes in possession.  The image of Saint Philomena is used to depict her.
Gran-bwa means ‘big tree’ and he is the master of the forests of Vilokan, the island which is home to the Loa.  He is associated with plants, trees, and practices associated with flora such as herbalism.  The mapou (or silk-cotton) tree is particularly sacred to him, and it is a mapou tree that is seen as connecting the material and spirit worlds.  Gran-bwa is also seen as a guardian of those ancestors who have always travelled from this world to the next.
Kalfou

Kouzen

La Sirène

Legba

Kalfou (literally crossroads) is one of the aspects of the spirit Papa-legba in Haitian Vodou.  He is often envisioned as a young man or as a demon whose colour is red.  He favours rum infused with gunpowder and is often linked to Satan.  As his name indicates, he controls the crossroads and has the power to grant or deny access to all other Loa, or spirits.  Although other Loa recognise and know him, he is often a ‘Lone Wolf’.


Kouzen is the patron Loa of farmers and is known as Minister of Agriculture.  A good natured man in the mountains, very gentle and respected by all for being a hard worker, he enjoys the most simple things in life.  He is very suspicious by nature, out for profit.  St Isidor is the Saint Catholic image used to portray Kouzen, whose colours are green, denim and sometimes blue and red.
La Sirène, the wife of Agwé, is usually pictured with green blue-eyes and mulatto skin with long straight dark hair.  All treasures of the ocean are hers and the underwater palace she shares with Agwé is filled with gold and precious items from sunken ships.  La Sirène is usually depicted in the image of Our Lady of Navigation.
When one hears the word Vodou, the first spirit that comes to mind is Legba, undoubtedly the most important spirit in the hierarchy of Vodou.  No Vodou ceremony of any sort can take place without his permission.  The image of Saint Lazarus (for the crutch that he uses for support) or St Peter, for the keys that he holds, are used to represent Legba whose colour is yellow.
Lenglensou

Loco

Marassa

Marinette Bois Sech

Lenglensou is a fierce Loa, and is considered to be a Free Masson and very knowledgeable in all spiritual and esoteric matters.  He executes judgment on those who can't keep their word, and the Hougan or Mambo who can't keep the Vodou secrets from the uninitiated.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Catholic image uses to represent this Loa, whose colour is red.
Loco (also spelled Loko), the husband of Ayizan, is a patron of healers and plants, especially trees.  As the spiritual parents of the priesthood he and his wife are two of the Loa involved in the kanzo initiation rites in which the Priest/Priestess to be is given the asson (sacred rattle and tool of the priesthood), and are both powerful guardians of 'reglemen', or the correct and appropriate form of Vodou service.
The Marassa are the sacred twins of Vodou.  They represent abundance, blessings, the gift of children and the sacredness of family and the mysteries of conception.  They are male and female, and both male and female.  Although portrayed as children, the Marassa are very powerful Loas, and if not properly served they make people sick and bring bad luck.  They are associated with the Catholic saints Cosmas and Damian; their colour is yellow.
Marinette Bois Sèch, meaning Marinette of the dry arms, is one the most dangerous, violent and unpredictable of the Loa.  She is extremely evil -- her ceremonies are held around a huge bonfire, upon which salt and gasoline are thrown.  In possession she walks on fire, for her ceremonies take place extremely late at night, where the djab (devil) lives.  She is the wife of Ti Jean and cousin of Erzulie Dantor.  Her colour is red.


Ogou / Ogoun

Simbi

Ti Jean

Ogou was originally associated with fire, blacksmithing, and metalworking, but his focus has transformed over the years to include power, warriors and politics.  He is particularly fond of the machete, which is a common offering in preparation for a possession.  He is the husband of both Erzulie Dantor and Erzulie Freda -- he is renowned for his love of women.  Many credit him with planting the seeds of revolution into the minds of Haitian slaves in 1804.  Each of his many aspects has its own personality and talents -- one is associated with healing where he is seen as a combat medic, another is a thinker, strategist, and diplomat, and many are machete-swinging warriors.  His colours are those of the Haitian Flag, blue and red.
Simbi is a well-known and venerated Loa in Haitian Vodou.  Simbis are considered to be male, living in rivers, lakes and springs.  Simbis usually abduct their followers, or any random person they take a liking to, while swimming or boating, taking them to an underwater palace.  Abductions are usually for 121 days, after the victims are sent back with all the knowledge they require to be a Hougan or Mambo.  Most Simbis are sorcerers specialising in black magic and usually served in secret Vodoun societies.
Ti Jean is a fire Loa who lives in the bushes.  He is a powerful magician who primarily deals with black magic and he's part of secret Vodou societies.  He dances on fire, and his offering -- a sheep -- is usually burnt to ashes.  He is seen as a one-legged dwarf who is surprisingly very agile in climbing his favourite coconut tree.  He always wears a straw hat, and carries a cane for support.  People show great respect for Ti Jean, particularly as he is known to set houses on fire when he is upset.  His ceremony takes place on St Jean's Day, June 24th, whose image is also used to depict him.  His colour is yellow.




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